Film

David Bezmozgis’s Naturalistic Teen Drama “Natasha” Touchingly Plumbs the Immigrant Experience

by

As a coming-of-age tale, Natasha at first seems familiar: lazy summer days, meandering bike rides, raging teenage libidos. But the disconnect between parents and children here proves more than just generational. The Toronto-set film reveals two disparate paths of immigrant children: a second-generation kid assimilating into his parents’ adopted country, and a new arrival attempting to escape an exploitative past.

Mark (Alex Ozerov), the sixteen-year-old son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, sells weed, reads Nietzsche, and has a penchant for porn. When Mark’s great-uncle marries a mail-order bride from Moscow, the arrival of his new aunt’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Natasha (Sasha K. Gordon), marks a turning point in the summer. Gordon shines while bringing equal parts cynicism and wonder to her precocious, Lolita-like role.

Written and directed by David Bezmozgis — adapting his 2004 short story — Natasha is as beguiling and confounding as its title character. With naturalistic honesty, Ozerov and Gordon tap into their characters’ insecurities and sexuality (because, duh, teens). But Bezmozgis delves deeper than pubescent angst, exploring the immigrant experience through family dynamics, dinner-table debates about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and old-country dreams.

Natasha

Written and directed by David Bezmozgis

Menemesha Films

Opens April 28, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas